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There is continuing, strong international interest in reducing emissions and alternate uses of coal resources.

International cooperation on low-rank coal R&D can help to accelerate research activities, disseminate knowledge of what works (and what doesn’t!), and build stronger collaboration that will hasten the deployment of new technological solutions across the globe.

Australia, with abundant coal resources, suitable nearby carbon sinks and a favourable policy regime, is well placed on the world stage to be a leader in the demonstration of low-emissions coal projects.


BCIA already has a number of international participants in our R&D programs, with organisations from the USA, China, Japan and the European Union (EU).

BCIA Chief Executive Officer, Dr Phil Gurney, recently visited the United States and met with a number of low emissions coal organisations including the US National Carbon Capture Center, the EERC and Lignite Energy Council in North Dakota, and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in California. He will also be visiting China and Japan in the coming months.

The European Union, through its Framework 7 program, has recently announced funding for EU teams seeking to partner with Australian researchers on coal and CCS technologies and BCIA, through its reciprocal membership with JCOAL, has already established formal ties with Japan.

BCIA is looking to build more of these formal international research linkages and if you are based outside Australia, but looking to strengthen your ties to the research and demonstration activities here, please feel free to get in touch.


RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT



The Victorian Government is currently promoting the development of export opportunities for brown coal as a way to generate new commercial activities in the Latrobe Valley, but unlocking this potential will depend on overcoming some serious technical challenges.

As-mined Victorian brown coal typically has high water content (>60% by weight) and must be substantially dewatered to make long-distance transport a viable proposition. However, without further processing, dewatered brown coal is susceptible to spontaneous combustion; creating a difficult risk to manage for safe storage and transportation.

BCIA is currently supporting a number of projects aimed at understanding the fundamental processes involved in dewatering and spontaneous combustion, as well as the formulation of brown coal products into forms that are suitable for long-distance transportation.

To be economically viable, the coal must be effectively dewatered with only a low-energy expenditure. BCIA-sponsored PhD student, Ms Hui-En Teo, under the

supervision of Dr Anthony Stickland at the University of Melbourne, is studying the fundamentals of a novel dewatering mechanism involving a low-energy combination of shear and compressive forces.

Optimising this technique depends on understanding how brown coal behaves when exposed to simultaneous shear and compression. Ms Teo is working to develop a simulation model of the dewatering process using the theory of compressional rheology which, when validated, will be used to design an energy-efficient dewatering system.

Another BCIA-funded project, led by Dr Andrew Hoadley at Monash University, addresses the issues of spontaneous combustion and formulation of brown coal for safe storage and transport.

Part of the Monash project involves a systematic study of the relationship between the chemical composition and physical structure of brown coal in relation to spontaneous combustion behaviour. Such a study has not been done before anywhere in the world, and is expected to identify the product characteristics that are needed to minimise the risk of spontaneous combustion.

The second part of this project looks at how to convert brown coal into dense, stable pellets that are suitable for long-distance transport, using granulation technology. The concept is to mix powered coal with a binder liquid to form dense aggregates, which will be dried using an efficient superheated steam drying process.

The fundamentals of the granulation process are being studied carefully to allow successful scale-up from laboratory to pilot scale. A further aspect of this project is to apply the granulation technology to a commercial brown coal-derived fertiliser product.

The goal is to produce fertiliser granules that are strong enough to be drilled along with the seed, rather than broadcast, to allow more targeted and cost-effective application of the fertiliser.

In a separate but related project, a group led by Associate Professor Tony Patti at Monash University is investigating the potential benefits of brown coal-derived fertilisers to improve soil structure and promote plant growth.

BCIA-sponsored PhD student, Ms Karen Little, reports on this work in her project update on
page 4 in this issue of Perspectives on Brown Coal.

These BCIA funded research projects are all intended to build the fundamental knowledge base necessary for development of better quality, safer products from Victorian brown coal.

In this way, BCIA is working to support the Victorian Government’s vision of new, export-oriented businesses operating from the Latrobe Valley.



For more BCIA news, go to the next page of this e-newsletter.




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